“Yeah…I do that”

[Editor’s Note: My colleague, Kate Ottavio, apparently doesn’t do these things. . . I do. You can find her post on the topic here.]I Had This Top!

Spin — Heck yes, but spin it as ‘framing.’

Flack — It’s why I’m here. The conjugation of the verb form is easy – I flack, you flack, he flacks…the noun form — I am a flack.

Bribe — Well, not really — I have been known to offer things for free (food, samples, “review” copies . . .).

Pester — Seriously? It’s half my job.

Hover — Like I’ve got a jet-pack.

It seems the dear Kate is an optimist about our industry, I take a bit harsher view. We deal with clients who frequently couldn’t find their way out of a paperbag with a map and a pair of scissors. They need us for our writing skills, ability to turn a story around and be the ‘do-ers’ of the things they can’t do. We’re part secretary, parent, hired gun, scapegoat, prostitute and pimp.

There’s only so much prettifying we can do — sometime we have to spin — turn the negative story positive because if you don’t the client will get on the phone with the reporter, and when asked “Did you expect the lawsuit?” answer truthfully “No, it totally knocked our socks off.”

Well damn — it’s obviously time to stroke the client’s ego a bit (at around the 25 second mark) and make them believe, even if only in their own little minds, that the lawsuit hasn’t kicked them where the sun don’t shine.

The answer we’re looking for is “Of course. Our attorneys told us to expect it and we fully believe the truth will come out in a court of law.” Forget that settlement is on its way, that the client will be in Bankruptcy Court if it goes the wrong way and that it’ll never see the inside of a courtroom. Confidence, Truth, and Success are the spin messages of the day.

Flack — I won’t even address this one too deeply. Call from reporter: The client didn’t call – oh, that’s my fault, sorry. Client rescinded their quote — oh, that’s my fault let me give you another one. Client gave the exclusive to someone else behind my back — sorry ’bout that someone else in the office was working on it simultaneously and got a quick case of swine flu. My fault. Excuse me while I go kill the client. It’s always my fault if it’ll keep a good relationship between client and hack.

Bribe — Ok, not really. Free stuff — totally. But that’s just spin — it’s a bribe.

Pester — You betcha. I need the copy of that issue. I need the copy of that issue. I need the copy of that issue. If I don’t pester a ball gets dropped. If a ball gets dropped I could have caught if I was pestering you can bet I’ll pester. That’s the secretary and parent part. You need a headshot, let me get that for you. Even if I have to go the client at least I’ll know who’s got possession of the problem — me.

Hover — Oh hells yes. All you’ve gotta do is say the following 10 words once after the client has started down a path they shouldn’t have gone down. “Client, you wanted this part to be off the record.” One off the record save, one chance to redirect an interview the direction it should be going one lunch on a client’s expense account and hovering for 10 years is worth it.

I may sound resentful, but I get something from all of these activities — I learn more about the client’s business by spinning their news, their staff and the people behind the company from taking the flack, which journalists are responsive and respect our relationship by the level of pestering necessary (in case you haven’t figured it out — if it takes me five emails/calls to find out when a story is going to run you aren’t going to make the top of my list), and the client’s interviewing (lying, erm. . . spin. . . . or rather ‘framing’) skills by hovering.

It’s part of my job and what makes me a better flack.

Let the hate begin

PS–I don’t make 6 figures either…

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  • keithtrivitt

    Haha. The comments here should be quite interesting … I won't say either way my feelings on the above, but I'm definitely looking forward to reading what others have to say! BTW … very well written. Tough subject to broach, particularly from your POV, so kudos to you on making in a worthwhile read, rather than a “this is what clients expect us to do, get over it or get out of the biz” type of read.

    Keith Trivitt
    @KeithTrivitt

  • Hey Keith –

    Thanks for your comment. My pleasure to post this. I certainly do appreciate this business and have learned a great deal in my years in the biz. My oddly small positive side sees the negatives of our biz as learning experiences. I def am interested in seeing the responses as well.

  • jeffespo

    I love these two articles today and the debate between the two of you. While I would love to make six-figures, I don't and do think that Cog may have hit the nail on the head as to my take on the industry. Yes we all went into this business to help get publicity for clients/companies, but sometimes white lies and spinning the truth are needed to get there.

  • since you mentioned PR pros are like prostitutes, thought i'd share the following list why we are…like prostitutes (not original).

    1) Our customers are called clients…Like prostitutes.

    2) We work in weird shifts…Like prostitutes.

    3) They pay you to make the client happy…Like a prostitute.

    4) The client pays a lot of money, but your employer keeps almost every penny…Like a prostitute.

    5) You are rewarded for fulfilling the client's dreams…Like a prostitute.

    6) Your friends fall apart and you end up hanging out with people in the same industry as you…Like a prostitute.

    7) When you meet the client you always have to be perfectly groomed…Like a prostitute.

    8) But when you go back home it seems like you are coming back from hell…Like a prostitute.

    9) The client always wants to pay less but expects incredible things from you…Like a prostitute.

    10) When people ask you about your job, you have difficulties explaining it…Like a prostitute.

    11) Everyday when you wake up, you say: “I'M NOT GOING TO SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE DOING THIS!”…OH JUST LIKE a prostitute.

    The only difference is that prostitutes can take Christmas and New Year's Eve off and they actually DO make a lot of money!

    If you know someone in the PR industry, please share this with them so they don't feel bad anymore…Like a prostitute.

  • since you mentioned PR pros are like prostitutes, thought i'd share the following list why we are…like prostitutes (not original).

    1) Our customers are called clients…Like prostitutes.

    2) We work in weird shifts…Like prostitutes.

    3) They pay you to make the client happy…Like a prostitute.

    4) The client pays a lot of money, but your employer keeps almost every penny…Like a prostitute.

    5) You are rewarded for fulfilling the client's dreams…Like a prostitute.

    6) Your friends fall apart and you end up hanging out with people in the same industry as you…Like a prostitute.

    7) When you meet the client you always have to be perfectly groomed…Like a prostitute.

    8) But when you go back home it seems like you are coming back from hell…Like a prostitute.

    9) The client always wants to pay less but expects incredible things from you…Like a prostitute.

    10) When people ask you about your job, you have difficulties explaining it…Like a prostitute.

    11) Everyday when you wake up, you say: “I'M NOT GOING TO SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE DOING THIS!”…OH JUST LIKE a prostitute.

    The only difference is that prostitutes can take Christmas and New Year's Eve off and they actually DO make a lot of money!

    If you know someone in the PR industry, please share this with them so they don't feel bad anymore…Like a prostitute.

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